The proper question under Fed. R. Evid. 404(b) is whether the evidence at issue has the potential to cause undue prejudice and if so, whether the danger of such undue prejudice substantially outweighs its probative value. The balancing test undeniably weighs in favor of admitting the evidence, where the evidence of defendant's conduct is no more sensational or disturbing than the crimes with which he was charged.
During the late 1980s, Boyd lived an illegal but lucrative double life. Although he held a regular job at the Rohm & Haas plant in Galveston Bay, Texas, Boyd also supplied large quantities of marijuana to James Todd Hibler in Maryland. Boyd obtained the marijuana he sold from two different sources in Baytown, Texas. One source was Manual Jaramillo (Jaramillo); the other was brothers Joseph and Arthur Nieto. From December 1988 through November 1989, Boyd, through various middlemen, namely, Scott Jordan (Jordan), Aubrey Clevenger (Clevenger), and Scott Ianaro (Ianaro), supplied marijuana to Hibler. Generally, the marijuana, in quantities of forty to sixty pounds, was transported by truck from Texas to Maryland. On October 7, 1993, Boyd, Jaramillo, and brothers Joseph and Arthur Nieto were indicted for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute marijuana and other related offenses. Jaramillo and the Nieto brothers pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute marijuana. The jury found Boyd guilty on the five counts of the superseding indictment that related to him. Boyd thereafter appealed his conviction, contending that the lower court erred in refusing to require the production and an in-camera inspection of the Government's Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports, pursuant to the Jencks Act. Boyd also claimed that the admission of his tax return and evidence of personal drug use was an abuse of discretion.
Did the district court err in rendering a decision against Boyd?
The Court held that because Boyd did not specify with reasonable particularity that material, which might be a Jencks Act statement, existed, no in camera inspection was necessary. The Court also ruled that the finding that the DEA reports did not contain Jencks Act statements was clearly not erroneous. The Court also posited that Boyd’s tax returns were admissible to rebut his claim on direct examination as to his lifestyle and the legitimacy of his income. Finally, the Court concluded that there was no abuse of discretion in the admission of evidence of drug use to show motive.